Eden* They Were Only Two, On The Planet Review
I had seen comparisons to Eden with Planetarian, and admittedly, I haven’t play the latter (I should soon though!), but seeing as how this visual novel is developed by minori; the same studio behind ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two-I just had to see this. I actually had been dying to play this visual novel long ago, and seeing people singing praises for it when they read the untranslated version years ago didn’t help either, but now that it’s officially translated…
Despite the sci-fi background, Eden’s setting is particular simple. In the future, a red star suddenly emerged in the sky. Scientists researched this mysterious phenomenon, and predicted a shocking discovery-it’s a sign that the Earth is dying, and it’s approximate life span was 100 years. Upon discovery, mankind is astonished, bemused and desperate. Wars begun to break loose until the United World Government is formed to prevent mankind from ruining themselves before the end of the world even approaches. The remaining humans begun working on a plan called the “Felix Plan”, which aims to migrate humans to other planets with massive spaceships. In order to develop these spaceships, genetically engineered humans-“felix” are created. These felix possess incredibly high intelligence and never age. Out of all of them, the most intelligent of all them, Sion, was put in charge for this project. 99 years later-the start of this visual novel, while the plan is near completion, a soldier by the name of Ryou is assigned to the research facility Sion was at for guard duty.
While some visual novels are commonly getting criticisms for having slow pacing, Eden is one of those few visual novels where it actually operated nicely in a slow-paced format. That being said, Eden is definitely paced satisfyingly well for a slow-paced visual novel, and tidbits of information and slight foreshadowing are meticulously spread out along the course of the story, which helped tremendously in expanding interest span despite the slice-of-life style.
And yes, it’s slice of life, even if it didn’t seem like it at first glance, considering how militaristic the setting is. If you read the synopsis I described, you will notice there were definitely A LOT of developments, only that we didn’t see a majority of these developments taking place, and the visual novel starts when 99% of these developments had occurred. So here, we are reading a story out of an already developed world. Indeed, the thing about Eden is that it definitely isn’t too ambitious, and especially with it’s extremely short length (around 10 hours), it probably picked a good choice of not even attempting to be, since it’s slow pace and slice of life structure works synonymously well with Eden.
This led to another thing I’m also extremely appreciative of Eden-there are no twists, and there are certainly no “glorified” dark scenes as well, despite the grim settings; even the ending was executed in an optimistic manner. In the end, Eden is really just as it is, a bittersweet, romance story. Because the narrative is so linear and simple, instead of trying to figure out any complicated plot twists; a lot of your time is usually spent on just seeing how your characters spend their days and their developments along the course of the story. This helps bolstering character and emotional investment-effectively making the conclusion, despite melancholic, that much fruitful and bittersweet.
The whole character cast isn’t too huge: they are just quite literally, two main characters, Ryou and Sion, and some supporting characters who are incredibly integral and pivotal to the plot. Despite the short length, the visual novel had enough time to expose all of it’s characters ample in the limelight, enough to understand their characterizations, motives and developments, so that’s another thing to applaud for. All the characters are fascinating and have extremely intriguing backstories. That being said, Eden has the advantage of having a smaller cast so as far as character investments go, it has a lot more focus. Eden’s simple but powerful narrative also helps too, and it will be hard not to feel for the main characters by the end of the story.
As far as visuals, even if it’s as expected from minori, but Eden is one of the most beautiful title I had ever seen to date, and might even one-up ef too in visual quality, if that’s even possible. The vivid CGs-especially those scenery backgrounds, are extremely breathtaking no matter how many times I look at them. Interestingly, Eden totally discarded the traditional notion of sprites, and utilized a more cinematic approach with their sprites usage. Instead of integrating sprites traditionally (insert them on top of background images), they are blended within the CGs. These sprites will interact with the CGs and transition to other poses or positions accordingly to the plot. Additionally, during conversations, sometimes the visual perspective will shift over to character’s over-the-shoulder to visualize that the story is now told in his/her point of view. In fact, the sprites usage is so detailed and dynamic in Eden I’m not sure if calling them “sprites” is even correct anymore. Another noteworthy thing, while some visual novels have eyes-blinking and mouth-moving animations with their sprites, but Eden took it up a few notches above by integrating them in actual CGs too. Now admittedly, ef had already employed these visual techniques long before Eden even came out, but it works, and on a title released on a later date, with improved designs and higher resolution? Even better.
I guess the only complain I have is that some of the characters’ facial perspectives are drawn slightly odd and dated, and is the only part of the visual which shows that this visual novel is definitely not new, and is 6 years old by now (The original Japanese version is released late 2009); it still puts up an extremely strong facade nonetheless, and it’s honestly just a small issue I managed to find, as I have nothing but praise for it’s visuals.
Ef’s music is top notch, and Eden’s not disappointing either. Composed by the same man who did ef (and also Makoto Shinkai films), Tenmon did a great job with the music as usual. His music just fits with Eden’s quiet mood, Tenmon is always good at capturing that sense of loneliness, which is probably why he is such a central figure in the music for Makoto Shinkai films as well. But nonetheless, Eden’s list of slow, sad and orchestrated ballads did their roles exceedingly well to bolster Eden’s ambiance and mystique. While it definitely has other songs of the contrary but I feel these songs are definitely the more attention-grabbing ones. My only complain is that despite Eden’s remarkable list of songs, the title screen is oddly silent. On the system side, it is extremely satisfying considering this is a newer visual novel-but some noteworthy mechanics include changing fonts and the ability to toggle on/off animations and special effects.
At the end of the day, Eden doesn’t try to be anything special as it fits in the mold rather complacently. It’s just a simple, endearing tale of a tragic love story-heartwarming, yet heartrending at the same time. If you have a thing for this kind of genre, albeit, with just a slightly bit of an unique setting, I would definitely recommend it. It wouldn’t rock your socks off but what it sets out to accomplish, it accomplished well.